Interview with Denis Thomas, new member of Hydrogen Europe’s board and EU Regulatory Affairs & Business Development for renewable hydrogen at Hydrogenics Europe.
31 January 2017
Denis, you recently joined the Board of Hydrogen Europe. Can you please introduce yourself to our members?
I am in charge of EU Regulatory Affairs & Business Development activities for renewable hydrogen at Hydrogenics, a world-wide leading provider of electrolyzers, hydrogen refueling stations and hydrogen fuel cells. Apart from my activities at Hydrogen Europe, I also represent Hydrogenics at the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE) and the European Power-to-Gas Platform.
As the representative taking care of our member companies: What are your priorities?
Concerning the membership, I believe it is essential for Hydrogen Europe to strengthen the link with our members and create additional value of being a member of the association. The exact strategy will be decided in the coming weeks by the Board but I have a few ideas, mainly inspired from my previous experience is another Industry Association. First, I suggest organizing a quick survey to understand the expectations from our members, what is appreciated and what should be improved. Based on the results of this survey a more precise action plan would be established over the coming months. The strategy should be focused on the satisfaction from the existing members and on acquiring new members. To do this, we will need to improve our communication channels, especially through a new professional website with a dedicated member area. I think it also important to inform better our members on the Annual Working Plan to make sure our members know how to integrate this process in the most efficient way. Finally, I believe the networking between our members should be stimulated through various actions or events.
How do you see your role in the Association?
On top of being responsible for the membership, I want to ensure that our association is not working alone in its corner. Hydrogen is a transversal topic in our energy system as it touches the power, gas, industry and transport sectors. I am stimulating everyday cooperation with other associations in Brussels to create synergies and allies. By exchanging more information with them, our positions will be better understood, smarter and aligned with our peer associations such as EASE, Solar Power Europe, Wind Europe, Eurogas, T&E and many others… To be honest, I am always surprised by the lack of knowledge of the others associations in Brussels on hydrogen. How do you want them to support hydrogen if they don’t really understand what we can deliver? Keeping close contact with them and delivering clear messages will be key to achieve this goal.
Hydrogenics has been an active member of our association for many years.
How do you see the transition process of Hydrogen Europe?
We welcomed the transition from New-IG to Hydrogen Europe which is a clear message to our stakeholders that our industry is moving from research and demonstration to market. At the same time, the focus of the association is widening with more market creation activities and advocacy work. Hydrogen Europe has increased its internal staff from 2 to 5 people which again is a clear sign we want to play an important role in Brussels in bringing hydrogen at the core of the energy transition. In short, a lot happened in terms of organization of the association over the last two years. Over the next 2 years, we need now to make sure EU policy makers will adopt hydrogen as the missing link between the power, gas, industry and transport sectors.
As Board member you are also making the link with the newly created Advocacy Task Force. What are the most important elements in this field?
We are now at a crucial moment in terms of EU regulation with the publication of the “EU winter package” which will determine the energy landscape in the EU between 2020 and 2030. Intense discussions are taking place in Brussels over the next months. Hydrogen Europe has a critical role to play here. We can already be satisfied to see so many references to hydrogen in the proposed text by the Commission, showing the role of hydrogen in the energy transition has been recognized. However, the proposed text does not bring yet the legal framework we need for hydrogen to create a real strong and sustainable market. In this package, the new Renewable Energy Directive (RED) is critical for hydrogen as it sets the foundations of the role of hydrogen in linking renewable power, renewable heat and renewable fuels of non biological origin. One key element to tackle in the coming weeks is how to define renewable (or green) hydrogen and how can we establish a certification mechanism which will ensure accuracy, transparency and achievement of the environment goals set by the EU.
What are the issues that your company Hydrogenics focuses on?
As you probably know, Hydrogenics exists for more than 20 years with production facilities in Belgium, Germany and Canada. We have demonstrated the maturity and robustness of the technology of electrolysers and fuel cells successfully in a variety of applications. The majority of the projects realized in Europe were possible thanks to funding. Our focus is now to reduce the cost of the technology while maintaining the highest level quality and safety. In parallel, we invest a lot of time at national, European and global level to create the appropriate market conditions for a hydrogen economy. Our main targets are policy-makers and leading companies in the energy field.
What’s your vision for hydrogen and fuel cells?
Our vision is quite simple. We are convinced hydrogen technologies have reached the level of maturity needed for large scale market deployment, with still a significant cost reduction potential. At the same time, a real tsunami of renewable power is being installed in all geographies. If governments want to reach their COP21 targets, they need to push further renewables in the power sector and they need to decarbonize significantly the heating and the transport sectors. There is no doubt that only hydrogen offers the means to achieve this high level of decarbonization in all sectors, if produced from renewables. The most important is making sure our policy makers understand it!
About Denis Thomas:
Denis Thomas is in charge of EU Regulatory Affairs & Business Development activities for renewable hydrogen at Hydrogenics.He joined Hydrogenics in 2014 and coordinated the project ‘Power-to-Gas roadmap for Flanders’. Before, he worked 8 years in the solar photovoltaic sector in Belgium for various companies and at European level within the European Photovoltaic Industry Association. He holds a Master Degree in Business Administration from HEC Liège (Belgium) and a European Master Degree in Renewable Energy followed in Oldenburg (Germany) and Zaragoza (Spain).